5 Colocation Considerations

data center

The physical facility is the first line of defense protecting data from moisture, seismic activity, outages and malintent. Know how your data center protects its equipment from the elements, from construction materials to security systems. PHOTOS COURTESY OF INVOLTA

2) Policies and Protocol

How is the data center managed? Make sure your colocation center has sensible access policies. Involta provides 24/7 access, but only people who have been pre-approved are allowed to enter the data center floor unescorted – everyone else must be accompanied by a staff member. In addition, entrances are monitored so that no one can take in food, drink, or combustibles like a piece of equipment in a cardboard box.

“The number one cause for data center outages is this little thing called a human. The fewer times that people touch things, the better off we are,” Thorsteinson notes. “Contrast that with a corporate data center – accommodations get made because maybe it’s easier to take a shortcut through the data center to get somewhere and people allow that, or maybe executives like to show off the data center so someone who doesn’t work in it has access. Sometimes people are stationed in the data center so they have to have a microwave and refrigerator – people come with their own space and have to have their coffee or soda or Danish. All of those things represent challenges.”

Company culture is an important complement to official policies, Thorsteinson notes: “We try and do the basic building blocks of cybersecurity, which means a physical perimeter, a logical perimeter and personnel to say ‘Hey, this doesn’t seem right.’ That’s a big deal. If you look at the big breaches, the ‘This doesn’t look right’ barrier was surmounted. We’re always working on culture.”

3) Power Supply and Preparation

On top of investing in extra generators, some data centers participate in demand response, which benefits all area utility customers. This can offer a side benefit for both customers and data center operators during hours of peak energy usage.

“We take advantage of an interruptible rate from the utility. When our 900 kW drops off the grid, the utility doesn’t have to buy that for customers and they no longer have to pay the higher price associated with having less electricity available,” Thorsteinson explains.

4) Building Intelligence

How clear of a picture do you have about the temperature and humidity on the floor? Operators should have adequate monitoring in place to keep equipment from getting too hot and moisture from wreaking havoc on sensitive electronic components.

“We have humidity and temperature sensors positioned throughout the facility and attached to the front of cabinets so we get a reading near where the airflow hits a customer’s equipment,” notes Rodeffer. “We also have internal tools that show us temperatures – they have alerting built in so if the temperature hits a certain threshold, we’d receive a notification. For visual representation of the facility as a whole, that tool generates a color-coded thermograph so I can pick out hot and cold spots. If I see a specific spot that might be getting too warm, I can take control of that by adjusting CRAC temperatures.”

Customers can see the temperature and power monitoring associated with their rack, but not the CRAC unit operations, adds Thorsteinson.  

5) Energy Efficiency Opportunities

When customers utilize a colocation center, it can be easy for them to overlook advances in data center technology because they are no longer paying for all the energy that your servers and storage use. However, you may be able to offer them some savings from efficiency initiatives in a few key areas.

Avoiding the last mile charge: Part of the cost of telecommunications for individual consumers and businesses is the result of the “last mile charge,” a fee intended to cover the final leg of telecom technology needed to carry power or data from the main infrastructure to the customer’s home or business. Large data centers like Involta can take advantage of aggregation rates from telecom utilities, effectively becoming part of the area’s communications backbone. At the Marion facility, this reduces the data center’s telecom rates by an average of 40%.

Agreement structure: Contracts that require customers to pay for their share of cooling in addition to their cabinets and the electricity their equipment consumes, they have a stake in your energy efficiency initiatives. At Involta, this will take the form of blanking panels to seal up unused space in cabinets, as well as variable speed fans and associated sensors for CRAC units.

A reduced electric footprint: “Customers can benefit both themselves and us by reducing electricity usage,” notes Thorsteinson. “In our Duluth facility, one disc storage device that took up an entire rack and used 6 kW continuously was replaced by a flash storage device that took up a third of the rack and could do more but used less than half of the electricity.”

Janelle Penny janelle.penny@buildings.com is senior editor of BUILDINGS.

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